Digital (and) Diplomacy: How to deal with digital aspects of foreign policy
In just a few years, issues which were considered ‘techie’, or deemed futuristic, became part of the diplomatic reality. Artificial intelligence, cyber-attacks, fake news, and e-commerce are negotiated at the United Nations, and at regional and bilateral fora worldwide. In developing their digital/cyber/tech diplomacies, countries face many challenges and open issues, including:
- How to adjust foreign policy to the emerging digital geopolitics and geo-economics
- How countries can integrate digital, cyber, and tech aspects into the existing or new diplomatic structures
- Whether digital diplomacy should be centralised, or coordinated as a network of digital diplomats
- Why, and how to develop representation in industry hubs such as Silicon Valley, Shenzhen, and Bangalore
- How to interact with scientific and tech communities to ensure that countries are up to date with the latest technological developments
- How to ensure diplomatic coherence across security, economic, human rights, technical and other aspects of digital foreign policy
- How to engage the tech industry, engineers, civil society, academia and other non-state actors in digital diplomacy and negotiations
- How to overcome conceptual barriers in understanding complex and technical digital developments
Some countries have already developed new approaches to these challenges. Denmark’s tech ambassador focuses on relations with the tech industry in Silicon Valley; Switzerland has a decentralised digital diplomacy approach across government departments and scientific networks; the delegations of the EU and Canada in Geneva have appointed diplomats who focus exclusively on digital aspects of multilateral affairs. These approaches and other examples will enrich our discussion on how to conduct diplomacy in the digital age.
The practical and forward-looking discussion will also focus on:
- Training digital diplomats: the talents, skills, and knowledge which they will require to deal more effectively with the fast-changing digital diplomacy agenda.
- The needs of small and developing countries, and other countries with limited human, organisational, and financial resources.
- Digital diplomacy in Geneva, home to international organisations which deal with over 50% of global digital policy.